Encouraging the Breastfeeding of Multiples†
by Frances Coulter Sturgess, R.D.
† Reproduced with permission from the Twin Services' Reporter,
Fall 1997 issue.
Breastfeeding is the recommended way to feed babies.
Both singles, twins, and multiples benefit. While tiny preemies and
other fragile infants may need to get pumped breast milk for a period
of time, nursing is possible in many more situations than it is encouraged.
It is both a natural process and a learned art. For many mothers,
reassurance is all that is needed. Others need more concrete advice
and support. Here are some suggestions for encouraging mothers to
breastfeed their multiples.
Twins or more are successfully being breastfed by a great number and
variety of women with different backgrounds and resources. Mothers
take joy in knowing that the benefits of breastfeeding to herself
and her babies will last a lifetime. Breastfeeding may also bring
you some rest!Breastfeeding brings with it protection from illness
which continues as long as you give them your milk. Nearly all babies
will get sick at one time or another but breastfed babies usually
have fewer and milder illnesses. This means less time transporting
children, and waiting at the doctor and the ER, less time trying to
force medicines down tiny throats, and walking sleepless crying babies.
Premature or medically fragile babies can still benefit from your
milk and you can generate a milk supply to anticipate their homecoming
if you pump your milk for them to be fed in the hospital. Some parents
find they feel less helpless when they are able to give this special
part of their babies' care. † Breast milk is easily digested and babies
have fewer reactions (allergies, diarrhea, asthma) to it than to substitutes.
† Bonding and getting to know each baby as an individual can be easier
because of time and hassle saved in getting ready to feed. Many women
have found they can breastfeed the babies and be done in the time
it takes to get formula warm and ready to feed a hungry baby. Two
babies can breastfeed at the same time. The time you might spend mixing
and warming and cleaning up after formula can be spent cuddling with
your babies, especially convenient at night feedings! It's easier
for one person to hold two infants to nurse than it is to hold two
infants to bottlefeed properly. † Breastfeeding saves money on feeding
that can be spent on other essentialsólike diaper service--even more
significant with multiples! (One infant may consume $1000 a year if
solely formula fed).
There are some predictable difficulties. You are probably going to
be tired all the time in the first months, no matter how you feed, since
parenting newborns is a 24 hour job, regardless of whether you have
one or two or more. To help you feel less tired take time (a second,
a minute) regularly to enjoy your children and family -- notice when
they smile and look you in the eye! Juggling two babies to nurse at
once can be tricky, but it gets easier with experience. There are several
positions that can be used to manage this.
The supply of milk responds to demand--as one woman pointed out, "I
have two breasts, so of course I can nurse twins." Women have also successfully
nursed triplets and more. The more often infants nurse, the more signals
a woman's body gets to produce more milk, which usually means more frequent
nursings for a few days until the volume per nursing catches up with
demand. Poor positioning can prevent the baby from truly efficient emptying
of the breast. A breast that is not emptied starts producing less milk,
which is why giving formula can interfere with breast milk supply if
not done correctly. As with all breastfed infants, good positioning
will also save you from the most common cause of sore nipples. Sore
nipples are most often caused by not knowing what a good "latch" is--that
is, how the position of baby's body affects mouth movements to get a
good flow of milk through massage of the breast and areola rather than
through suction. †
Bottlefeeding a breastfed infant is necessary when mother has to be
separated from her infant, usually because of work, school, illness,
or caring for others. Since we cannot predict which babies will decide
artificial nipples are "the way to go" if given them early, the recommendation
is to wait at least 3 weeks, preferably longer before introducing bottles
to babies, so that the milk supply is in. † More working women are choosing
to pump breast milk to maintain a significant milk supply. There are
many grades and styles of pumps. Contact a Certified Lactation Consultant
or Educator to help you evaluate which may work best for you. † Feeding
a formula/breast milk substitute is an alternative if you do not pump.
Expect your supply to diminish, though many women are able to maintain
some supply for several months or more by nursing in the early morning
and evening, and sometimes also at night, and leaving formula for when
they are not home. Be aware also, that formula is not "a perfect food"
and that caution is needed in how it is stored, mixed, and fed to the
babies to minimize where possible, the health problems that have been
associated with it. Some of these are due to the chemical nature of
formula but some are more related to how it is given, including the
ability of the caregiver to "detach" from the baby and leave babies
alone, uncuddled, with propped bottles. †
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